The Dinner: Beef Stroganoff, with beet salad, a freshly-baked roll, spicy carrots and bacon-fried onions at Cafe Yarmarka in Pike Place Market--all for under 10 bucks.
Marciulionis, during his time with the Sonics.
The Screenplate: In 1992, Lithuania participated in its first Olympics as a sovereign country. Its basketball team featured a number of marquee players from the old Soviet team that defeated the U.S. in '88, but had very little money for the Barcelona games. Having defected a few years earlier to play for the Golden State Warriors, star Lithuanian guard and ex-Sonic Sarunas Marciulionis helped convince the Grateful Dead to finance his team's journey. The band's generosity extended to the creation of tie-dye warmup shirts that the Lithuanians wore on the (bronze) medal stand, upstaging the gold won by America's "Dream Team," a squad that featured the likes of Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
Featuring interviews with the likes of Bill Walton, Mickey Hart, and David Remnick, Marius Markevicius' Sundance-selected documentary has all the makings of a stellar addition to ESPN's 30 for 30 series, and that's where it may end up. But it could use a fresh edit first: While Lithuania's struggle for emancipation is critical to the story, Markevicius spends far too long recounting it, and his baffling decision to incorporate current basketball prospect Jonas Valanciunas into the picture eats up even more screen time that would have been better devoted to the games themselves, a section that seems hurried in the current cut.
But for true geeks of the hardwood, Markevicius cold have spent the duration of The Other Dream Team replaying highlights of 7'3" Lithuanian center Arvydas Sabonis in his prime, and it still wouldn't have been enough. Had Sabonis, who later played with the Portland Trailblazers, started his NBA career in his prime versus when he was 31 and already stricken with bum wheels, he'd be mentioned in the same breath as Russell and Chamberlain, only with a game more like Walton's.
Sabonis was hardly the portrait of health, and not just because of his on-court ailments. As a wonderful profile in Sports Illustrated recounted:
Eventually, he developed more than a passing relationship with a bottle of vodka, a condition that former SI writer Curry Kirkpatrick memorably labeled as "Stolichnaya elbow." That sounds like the most groaningly obvious stereotype, the stolid Eastern Bloc-er pickling himself with the national drink, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. I heard the same priceless Sabonis/vodka story from both Marciulionis and Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson, who was an assistant coach on the Lithuanian team that won a bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
After the Lithuanians defeated the Unified team for the bronze -- a victory fraught with meaning since the Unifieds represented, to the Lithuanians, the very Soviet empire against which they had fought for their independence -- the closing ceremonies were still hours away. "That's far too much time for a Lithuanian," Nelson told me, smiling. Sabonis drank so prodigiously in his postgame celebration that he was unable to roust himself for the appearance on the medal stand and was later found spreading his own version of Glasnost in the dorm of the Russian women's Olympic team.
But a giant such as Sabonis, who recently survived a heart attack, cannot subsist on vodka alone, which would have doubtless led he and his teammates to Cafe Yarmarka had they scrimmaged in Seattle. There, the main dish is but one component in the construction of a deep bench of Eastern European chow.
Sabonis would likely order Beef Stroganoff to provide a hearty base for his boozing, along with a side of sour cream. At Yarmarka, there are five side items and three sauces -- and you can order them all, at no extra cost. You also get a salad, which should undoubtedly be the creamy beet varietal they produce.
Service is swift and chipper, and actual Russians patronize what amounts to a glorified lunch counter. Anytime folks of the ethnicity a restaurant is focusing on deem the food authentic enough to shell out money for, that's a fine sign.